Today, the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry report on rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley coal mines was tabled in Parliament. The Inquiry was asked to investigate options for rehabilitation of the mine sites after mining finishes, and whether these options would adequately address risks to the local community and environment.
“The Inquiry found that the regulation of the rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley mines is not up to scratch. They found that current rehabilitation plans for the mines do not set out how critical issues such as mine stability, water quality and fire risk are to be managed when mines close and the sites are rehabilitated,” said Felicity Millner, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia, who represented Environment Victoria at the inquiry.
“These issues, if not managed properly, could have significant and detrimental impacts on the environment and communities in the Latrobe Valley. The Latrobe Valley community have suffered enough. The government needs to act to implement these recommendations,” she said.
“In response to the Department’s failure to regulate properly, the Inquiry recommended an independent statutory authority be created, to manage the rehabilitation process.”
“The Inquiry also recommended that the community have a greater say in what happens in mine rehabilitation. We strongly support this recommendation. The future of the community will be greatly affected by what happens to these mines after they close. Therefore, they need to be involved in discussions about what happens on the land post-mining.
“They also made a series of recommendations to increase the amount of the bonds and to require the mines do more to progressively rehabilitate the site. For example, they recommended that the bonds be increased by more than double their current amounts immediately, whilst a longer-term policy is developed. These recommendations are needed to protect Victorian taxpayers from picking up the tab if the mines walk away without finishing the job of rehabilitating their mine sites.
“The government needs to ensure that the community does not bear the brunt of further mine management failures. We do not want to see another devastating mine fire.
“We call on the government to accept the recommendations of the Inquiry,” Millner concluded.